Black Eagle

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 439
Date: 1888
Medium: etching
Size: 65 x 45 mm
Signed: butterfly at left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 2
Catalogues: K.312; M.307
Impressions taken from this plate  (2)
Black Eagle probably dates from 1888. The butterfly signature is consistent with this date. Furthermore it was recorded by Whistler about this time. 1 It is etched on a plate of the same size as a drawing of an animal that was probably done about the same time (Sketches including a head and a hat [440]).

1: List, [1887/1888], GUW #13233.

It is just possible that the eagle was among the menagerie that arrived in London in April 1887 for Buffalo Bill's 'Wild West Show' at the 'American Exhibition', held during Queen Victoria's Jubilee. The exhibition opened on 9 May and closed on 31 October. Whistler took his nephew and son, Charles James Whistler Hanson (1870-1935) to see the Wild West show in 1887. However, this is definitely not an American eagle, and in any case the etching appears to date from a year later. It is of course possible that Whistler simply took the boys to the zoo in 1888 (according to his son, Whistler drew peacocks at the zoo about 1875). 2

2: C.J.W. Hanson, [1903?], GUW #02246.

Whistler also made two rough pen sketches of an eagle about the same time as this etching - 1887 or 1888 - and probably from life. 3

3: r.: and v.: Eagle [m1147].

The etching Black Eagle was first sold by Whistler on 6 April 1891 to H. Wunderlich & Co., New York. 4

4: GUW #13097.